Tag Archives: motherhood

The Perks and Pitfalls of Getting Older

With age comes wisdom, sure, but plenty of other things accompany maturing age, too. Shifting priorities are one example. Instead of searching for the perfect radio station in the car, you use the optimal lighting in your mini-van to find and extract chin hairs.

Age also brings discovery. As I progress into my forties I have discovered that debit machine screens suddenly have a glare requiring me to hold them at awkward angles. Also, noises are exhausting. All the noises: loud voices, medium voices, the whirring of the dishwasher, the wind lifting the tarp off the table in the back yard, the way my husband eats cereal, and my son sniffing. Tapping of any sort induces high levels of stress (maybe that’s just me, but it’s real. STOP IT).        no-you-need-reading-glasses

A few unexpected surprises have come along. My children all sleep through the night now so, of course, a new pal, Insomnia, visits more often. Whereas I used to be awakened by a newborn, now I wake up trying to recall the theme song from “Simon and Simon” or wondering if a hard-boiled egg is really called a Ten-Minute Egg.  I discovered I have “good rags” and get annoyed when someone uses them to clean the bbq grill or the tile around the toilets.please-floss-somewhere-i-cant-hear-you

My threshold for thrills has been lowered dramatically as my age increases. Recently I was ridiculously excited about buying a new foot cream. Just buying it. Don’t even get me started on actually trying it, that’s a topic for a whole other post (spolier: my heels no longer got caught on my workout leggings). Ordering clothes for my kids is almost more thrilling that shopping for myself – how did that happen? Dad jokes are not nearly as painful as they once were, in fact, I employ them. REGULARLY. “Oh, hello, Thirsty, my name is Mom.” Hilarious.

While a few years ago, I looked forward to going out, now I am quite content staying home and watching Netflix while browsing youtube for how-to videos about knitting projects I will never do. Or something like that.

There are some nice perks of getting older, too. I have learned scores of lessons since hitting the big 4-0. Your time is valuable so I will share one of the most profound epiphanies:

Self-care is vital to mental health. Time spent with friends, reading a book, meditating, or enjoying a hot cup of coffee can feed the soul. One word of caution, dear reader. If you unwind one afternoon by soaking in a steaming, hot bath, that is fantastic. However, trying to put on skinny jeans right after towelling off could be hazardous. You might end up stuck in your own pants weighing the pros and cons of  wriggling around on a tile floor or giving up until your skin cools down. Neither option is pretty. Or do you carefully shuffle around to find a pair of scissors and “jaws of life” your way out? How much did the jeans cost? Is it more than your pride? Can you discreetly dispose of cut-up jeans to avoid uncomfortable questions? Why did you even buy those jeans in the first place sure they give a nice silhouette with your slouchy sweater but AT WHAT COST WHAT COST I SAY?

Hypothetically speaking.

Age well,  friends. Age well.

sure-mom-jeans-are-flattering-but-some-outfits-need-a-different-fit-i-know-that-now


My Selfish Mother

Revelations can occur when you least expect it. It wasn’t until I was well into my own motherhood experience that I realized that while we were growing up, my mom was selfish. 

We often have a perception of mothers sacrificing their own happiness and joy for the sake of their children. Moms who give up everything in an effort to create a magical childhood for their offspring.

Not my mom.

She loved us, of that I have no doubt. But was she selfish? Absolutely.

Can you believe that if we left a project until the last minute, she wouldn’t stay up late to help us? And she refused to write us a note excusing us from turning in the assignment late. Something about “owning up to our choices” and “facing consequences.”

My mom also refused to buy us name-brand clothes so we could be like everyone else. She actually made us wait for birthdays and Christmas to get the leg warmers and oversized Roots sweatshirts we coveted. Or we had save up our own money, sometimes even sharing a new item between us sisters. Outrageous.

Sometimes my mom would be on the phone for an hour or more with a friend who was going through a crisis and she wouldn’t even pause to acknowledge our pleas for M&Ms. She took that long extension cord and tucked herself into our back hallway for privacy. If we dared start a fight or vie for her attention unnecessarily she would stomp her foot three times and give us the stink-eye. Or mutter something in Dutch which was a sign we would catch it when she finally hung up. Her own children simply ignored. Unreal.

As we got older we had to get jobs. It wasn’t even up for debate. And when we turned sixteen, we had to take Driver’s Education at our own expense if we wanted to be able to drive one of the family cars. Sure, they paid for gas and car insurance, but that $300 to get licensed really dipped into my McDonald’s lunch habit. Yes, she bought us essentials, but I had to pay for my own fast-food. The nerve.

Not convinced yet? Just wait. If we forgot something at home, my mom wouldn’t jump in the car and deliver it to us. She claimed her time was valuable and that she had work to do. She couldn’t just drop everything on a whim. “I guess you won’t forget next time, will you?”

Highschool math was a challenge for me, but did my mom bail me out? Get me a tutor? Talk to the teacher about going easier on me? No. After bringing home a 35% on a test, I had to make a plan for improvement. Me. Independently. This included going to the teacher for extra help on my own. She just flat-out refused to rescue me.

My mom made it abundantly clear that her relationship with my father trumped her relationship with us. She repeatedly told us that “before any of you came along, it was the two of us. And it will be the two of us long after you leave. I love you, but not at the expense of our marriage.” Those two never let us play one against the other. They were such a team we knew better than to try. The worst.

If we were interested in a sport or extra-curricular that required a Sunday commitment, she said “no”. She was unwilling to sacrifice our day of rest and made us focus on family, friends, and our faith. We had to spend time with each other playing games, visiting, and relaxing. Often we were scheduled to volunteer at church and had to serve others. She was all about living out our faith and giving back.

Giving to others, living above the line, integrity, a strong work ethic. Having a selfish mother shapes who you become. I learned a lot from my selfish mom, including to…

Clean up my own messes.

Do for others.

Value relationships.

Fix mistakes.

Be responsible.

Own my decisions and their possible consequences.

Budget. And stick to it.

Prioritize my marriage.

Focus on what really matters.

Put God first.

Be a selfish mom.

I am grateful for my selfish mom. My mom who did not let motherhood define her, but instead used it to shape four children who are grateful for her example. I hope one day my boys complain about what a selfish mom I was.

Thanks, Mom.

IMG_3743

 

 


Hello? Can You Hear Me?

“Screens are done. Devices off. Dinner is ready,” I call into the abyss that is our living room. “Hello? HELLO? GUESS I WILL JUST EAT THIS DELICIOUS MEAL ALL BY MYSELF.”

Nothing. Not even a flinch.

“Please make sure you put your shoes in the laundry room,” I remind an audience of zero. Because there the shoes sit – in the front foyer, ready to greet any guests who drop by.

Every parent feels like their messages often fall on deaf ears, right? I’m not alone in feeling unheard and invisible, am I?

Occasionally I like to make sure that I am not a ghostly phantom that cannot be heard rather than the mom my children choose to ignore. So I test their hearing. There are several methods I like to employ:

1. Turn on any Youtube video.

2. Call my mother.

3. Open a candy wrapper.

4. Begin a conversation with my husband.

5. Use even slightly salty language.

“We’re having a movie night? Can I have a snack? What are you watching? Why are you spelling out your words?” What a relief, their hearing is just fine.

I get it kids, parents are boring. We are always giving you advice, life lessons, and reminders to clean up your junk. Why bother turning off Netflix if you can ignore your mom and get a few extra minutes? Makes sense. I did it, too. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t drive me crazy, though.

Acknowledge that you heard me, kids. Respond. Throw an “okay” or “be right there” my way. I’d even settle for a grunt or a head nod. Or better yet, how about you just do what I ask the first time? Wouldn’t it be fun to just put your school things away instead of waiting for angry mom to arrive on the scene? It would be, trust me.

Alas, human children are not really wired that way. They have other ways of letting parents know that despite their blank stares and frozen positions on the couch, they do hear what we say. Sometimes we just have to wait for it. It’s hard to be patient and easy to give up or get frustrated. I feel that way a lot. And then that magical moment arrives. It can take on a variety of forms and often happens when we least expect it.

Recently I took three of our four boys to the movies. They were particularly chatty during the drive and I have learned to be still and let van conversations flow. They are some of the most profound conversations we’ve had. I think the topic came up after a chat about some light up shoes they had seen, I’m a bit fuzzy on the details, but the discussion went something like this:

Son #1: Some kids think there are Boy colours and Girl colours, but that’s just not true.

Son #2: Right? It’s so dumb to say that flowers and stuff are for girls, anybody can like what they like.

Son #1: Yeah, I like to colour with pink lots.

Son #3: It’s true, but sometimes commercials actually say, “and these ones for girls.”

Son #1: But you can buy whatever colour you want. Remember when I liked Hello Kitty so much? Some people say it’s for girls, but I liked it. I don’t anymore, but I really, really did when I was three.

Son #2: Sometimes kids at school say that pink is for girls. I don’t agree. I mean, I don’t really like pink, but that’s not because I’m a boy, I just like other colours more.

For the past ten years of raising four boys, we have tried very hard to dispel boy/girl stereotypes, particularly when it comes to toy selection and colour choices. We haven’t forced an agenda on the boys, but rather we hope we’ve coached them that they can like what they like. There is no such thing as a gender-specific colour. If they want to wear nail polish, I’ll gladly grab my vast collection and paint them any colour or pattern they wish. You’re into Hello Kitty and Transformers? Fine with me.

I quietly cheered the boys on as they discussed the ridiculous notion that we need to separate colours into categories. Yes, they have been listening.

Kids listen. They do. They might roll their eyes or seem to tune us out (they probably do tune us out). But they listen. They watch how we behave, they see how we treat others, and they do listen. We might not see immediate responses or evidence, but if we are willing to be patient, to be still, we will see it. Our messages do reach them.

But seriously now, screen time is over. 

photo 1-16

Please pick up your socks. Pick them up. PICK THEM UP.


Press Pause

Work. Marriage. Kids. Housekeeping. Friends.

So many things demand our time and attention. Struggling to maintain a balance is not new or unique, but it is a challenge. I used to think that this particular challenge would get easier when we were out of the baby stage. Then when we were out of the toilet-training stage. Maybe when they are all in school. But no. Struggling for balance doesn’t go away, it just changes as life moves along.

If I focus more on housekeeping, I enjoy the feeling of being organized. It gives me a sense of calm and peace when the kitchen counter is cleared and I can walk across the floor without collecting crumbs on the bottoms of my feet. But when I let that task take over my time I can slide into the nagging zone and transform into the “THIS-IS-NOT-A-DAYCARE-JUST-PICK-UP-YOUR-STUFF-WHY-ARE-THERE-COCOA-PUFFS-IN-MY-UKULELE” ranting mom.

That is not balance.

The weekend rolls around and this time I decide to say “yes” to the invitations to have breakfast with a friend followed by a walk with a neighbour and then an at-home date night with my husband. But giving the social side of me the priority leaves me feeling guilty for neglecting the kids and the housework. And out comes the scary cleaning-machine-mom.

Still not balance.

When the week has been long and filled with work, stomach flu, and extra errands to run, I just want to curl up in my pajamas and forget all responsibilities. So when Friday night finally arrives, I decide to give myself a break. We shove aside the Legos and Hot Wheels and eat take-out pizza in the living room. It’s a fun and relaxed family night.

And it’s exactly what we need. What I need.

I’m not going to find the perfect balance. I think it’s an unattainable goal. It’s a worthy goal, and for our own mental health and peace of mind, we need to strive for some balance. But a truly balanced life? I don’t think so. And I’m learning that’s okay.

We will always be pulled in multiple directions. Crises will arise, friends will need support, people get sick. Sometimes plain old daily life is too much. So instead of feeling guilty for not finding the right balance, I’m learning to pause.

When the state of the kitchen makes me want to scream, I can pause and pull out something easy for dinner, giving me time to get ahead on something else. When a child is sick, I can pause my work goal for the week and just accept that sleep isn’t really going to happen, but cuddles will. When I have to back out of a commitment because now I’m sick, I can put aside feelings of culpability, pause, and take friends up on their offers to help.

Pause and breathe and let go. It’s working.

The payoff is less guilt, less stress, and more joy, more laughter. And insight. Pausing let me spend time with one of my favourite little people who shared this gem as we enjoyed a hot chocolate together.

“Jesus and Yoda are alike because they’re both very wise and humble and sometimes confusing.”

The house might not be as tidy as I’d like. I might not have a homemade dinner on the table every night. I still feel overwhelmed sometimes and lean into the cranky-zone, but it’s worth it to give up on finding the perfect balance and allowing myself to pause.

 


Babies Don’t Keep

Before I ever had babies, I saw this sweet poem. Pretty sure it was done in a nice needlepoint tableau and hung above a toilet in my aunt’s home. Wait, no that’s the one about sprinkling when you tinkle. It must have been in the hallway. Maybe you’ve seen it. Maybe you even have a copy of your own.

Cleaning and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow

‘Cause babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow.

So quiet down cobwebs,

Dust go to sleep.

I’m rocking my baby

And babies don’t keep.

You might even find it on a fridge magnet.

Unknown

Double exclamation points make it more poignant

It’s a nice sentiment. It’s true, babies don’t keep. They change all the time.

You know what else doesn’t keep?

Bacteria

Mold

Mildew

Your veggie drawer

Dairy products

Lunch bags

Bananas (they are a very fickle fruit)

Friends, (see veggie drawer)

Of course, babies are more important than housework, but what if tomorrow never comes? What if you just keep reading that poem every day and heeding its advice? Wait, wait, wait – what if we really did heed this advice?

Can’t scrub the toilets today, rocking my baby.

Nope, sorry, not going to vacuum, this is time I won’t get back. 

Lunches are no longer my department, can’t you see I’m rocking a baby? 

You’ll always be my baby. Hold still, I don’t want to mop.

I’d like to empty the dishwasher, but my baby will never be this age again. Ever. Ok, he’s nine, but he’ll never be nine again. This is precious time, precious I tell you. 


Nope, I Just Dancing

Into the van, boys. We are going to Target!

Little, do you need to pee first?

No, I just dancing to music. It’s in my head.

Really? 

Yeah, I dance. See?

Never trust a preschooler with a reputation for peeing his pants. Even if he did use the facilities only ten minutes earlier. Against my better judgement, I didn’t force the issue and we took off to Mom Mecca: Target.

As we pulled into the parking lot, Little says in a tiny voice, “I wet.”

So many feelings! I was irritated that he peed his pants when he is capable of staying dry. I was peeved at myself for being irritated because I don’t tend to get upset with toilet training mishaps. I felt bad for his older brother who had brought his Lightning McQueen, velcro-closure wallet with him to buy a toy.

After checking the diaper bag and discovering no spare clothes (now I had to add Bearded Husband to my list of irritants) I had a plan of action.

Well, we’re going to buy you a pair shorts and you’ll wear those. AND YOU WILL LIKE THEM.

Now it was time for the big brother to jump into older and wiser sibling mode:

Little, you are going to have to wear whatever we buy, that’s what happens when you pee your pants.

Now, Little, when you pee your pants, Mommy isn’t angry, but you won’t be getting a toy.

Little, will get a toy because she didn’t have to spend money buying me new shorts because my shorts are dry. I never pee myself.

You know, you peed your pants.photo-51

Our shopping trip was mostly uneventful after that. The boys got into a slight altercation in the sock aisle, but it was nothing a threat issued through clenched teeth couldn’t diffuse.

We chatted and giggled while we finished up our shopping. As we wheeled towards the till, my youngest piped up:

Mommy? I get a toy?

No, Little, I spent that money on new shorts since you peed your pants.

I so sorry. Please? You buy me a toy? I not always pee my pants anymore.

It might take me a while and several seasons of preschool life, but eventually I learn: Never trust an almost 3-year-old. Especially one who has perfected using his cuteness for evil.

Don’t feel bad for him, though. He did get to ride home in a “big boy booster” instead of his car seat. Oh, that’s because – wait, did I mention this already? He peed his pants.

———

Unfortunate shopping experience? Share. Bodily functions involved? Even better.


Aches, Pains, and Ginger Ale

I had already pushed my luck and stayed up later than I should have. Just as I was drifting off to sleep sometime after midnight a little voice cried out, “Mommy!” I hopped out of bed to discover my third born quietly crying in the bathroom. He was tired, hot, and the light was “too bright”. I comforted him and tucked him back into bed only to be beckoned once again a mere twenty minutes later with more tears.

This good-natured almost-five-year-old rarely complains. I did my best to find out what was bothering him and then he drifted back to sleep. This is where is all becomes fuzzy. At some point in the wee hours of the morning he succumbed to a stomach bug. My Bearded Husband and I agreed long ago that this clean-up was my department (don’t worry, he takes care of vermin and clogged drains) so he sweetly asked me for help when he discovered our boy covered in sick. It always amazes me how I can be yanked from a deep sleep and jump into decisive and efficient action. Not bragging, I’m really surprised at myself every time. I cannot recall how often this scenario repeated, but by 6AM I knew I would not be able to be an effective (or pleasant) teacher with so little sleep and a potential conduit of “bleh” coursing through my body. I called in my last remaining Family Care day.

When I got up for the first time that day (or was it last? I was so confused) my body cried out at the injustice. I tense up whenever one of the boy is sick so my entire upper back was knotted and turning my head was a challenge (just stay out of my peripheral vision boys and the world is your oyster today). I had that queasy feeling you get from pulling all-nighters, but those supply notes weren’t going to write themselves. In fact, I wrote them twice. Once for the wrong day, and once for the correct one.

We muddled through the start of our day surprisingly well. My little guy kept down his toast and ginger ale and seemed to be on the mend. Mid-morning, however, he had that drained and pasty look and told me he was cold. Nothing a good cuddle couldn’t fix, right?

He's a twitchy sleeper, that one.

He’s a twitchy sleeper, that one.

I gladly wrapped my arms around my boy and we sat quietly on the couch together looking at the family portraits on the wall. “I wish I was sick every day so then I could always get to have pop,” he told me just moments before he drifted off to sleep. On my lap. Curled up and snoring. That hasn’t happened in at least three years. My neck started to ache, my left foot fell asleep and I had an itch I couldn’t reach because my arm was pinned under my boy who all too soon will turn five.

And it was completely worth it.

Celebrating all of you who are the special someone to someone little. Or big.